Fact check: US soccer star Megan Rapinoe did not ‘stomp’ on American flag

The claim: Megan Rapinoe stomped on the American flag and is now Subway’s spokesperson

Almost two years after the United States women’s national soccer team won the World Cup for the fourth time, misinformation about Megan Rapinoe’s conduct at the game continues to circulate on social media.

“This American Flag stomping woman is now the spokesperson for Subway,” says the caption of an image shared May 22 on Facebook.

The image depicts Rapinoe, the team’s captain, seconds before she lifted the World Cup trophy. Behind her, teammates Kelley O’Hara and Allie Long pick up a U.S. flag lying on the field. The image has been shared about 800 times.

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Rick Simpson, the user who shared the image on Facebook, told USA TODAY he was “in awe” when he watched the game in 2019. He said Rapinoe attempted to step on the flag, but a player picked it up before “she was able to stomp.”

However, video evidence shows Rapinoe wasn’t intending to “stomp” on the flag. Independent fact-checking organizations debunkedthe claim after the U.S. team beat the Netherlands in 2019. The claim that Rapinoe is a Subway spokesperson is also wrong.

Video doesn’t show Rapinoe ‘stomping’ on US flag

This isn’t the first time social media users have claimed Rapinoe disrespected the U.S. by stepping on the flag.

On July 7, 2019, the same day the U.S. women won the World Cup, a tweet with a video of the celebration went viral. The user, who has more than 100,000 followers, said Rapinoe “didn’t want anything to do with an #Americanflag before she stomped it.”

But the video doesn’t show Rapinoe stomping on the flag. Her feet aren’t even in the frame.

Megan Rapinoe celebrates following the USA team victory in the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup France Final match between The United States of America and The Netherlands at Stade de Lyon on July 7, 2019 in Lyon, France. (Photo: Maja Hitij, Getty Images)

Let’s review what the video does show.

At the beginning of the video, Long is holding the flag in one hand and the trophy in the other. After handing the trophy to Rapinoe, who starts rallying fans in the stands, Long drops the flag and joins Rapinoe.

Then, Rapinoe’s foot appears to brush the flag as it lies on the field while the other players move forward. Rapinoe doesn’t seem to notice the flag at her feet— she looks straight ahead at the fans.

A USA TODAY analysis of a video posted by FIFA, the international soccer federation, found O’Hara and Long picked up the flag before Rapinoe took a step forward. The flag was on the floor for about three seconds.

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Federal law on “respect for (the) flag” says the flag should “never touch anything beneath it, such as the ground, the floor, water or merchandise.” But the law, which was enacted in 1947, is strict about the use of the flag in ways that are now considered patriotic.

For example, the law says the flag should not be used as “wearing apparel,” printed on paper napkins or boxes, or worn as part of a costume or athletic uniform. However, it’s common practice for athletes to cover themselves with the flag to celebrate victories, particularly at international sporting events like the Olympics.

Rapinoe starred in Subway commercial

Rapinoe is a spokesperson for various companies, but not for Subway.

In April, Rapinoe starred in a Subway ad in which she’s seen convincing two men on a soccer field to order footlong sandwiches instead of burritos.

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But Rapinoe is not an official spokesperson for Subway, according to Brad Simon, the company’s senior director of brand communications.

“Megan is one of several athletes and celebrities Subway partners with, but they are not the official company spokesperson,” Simon told USA TODAY in an email.

Most recently, Subway partnered with Tony Hawk, a now-retired skateboarder, to sponsor a contest to win a custom skateboard.

Our rating: False

The claim that Rapinoe stomped on the American flag and is now Subway’s spokesperson is FALSE, based on our research. A video analysis shows Rapinoe didn’t stomp on the flag — her foot brushed against it before another player picked it up. Rapinoe is not Subway’s official spokesperson.

Our fact-check sources:

  • U.S. Soccer, accessed June 21, Kelley O’Hara
  • U.S. Soccer, accessed June 21, Allie Long
  • Rick Simpson, June 21, Facebook message exchange with USA TODAY
  • Getty Images, July 7, 2019, United States of America v Netherlands: Final – 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup France
  • Jonathan T. Gilliam, July 7, 2019, tweet
  • FIFATV on YouTube, July 7, 2019, USA v Netherlands | FIFA Women’s World Cup France 2019 | THE FINAL
  • U.S. Government Publishing Office, accessed June 21, Title 4 – Flag and Seal, Seat of Government, and the states
  • Getty Images, Feb. 14, 2018, USA Shaun white celebrates on the podium during the victory ceremony
  • Getty Images, August 8, 1992, United States Relay Team at XXV Summer Olympics
  • ESPN, July 20, 2012, Stars, stripes and the Olympics
  • USA TODAY, June 17, ‘The true spectrum’: Victoria’s Secret replaces Angels with Megan Rapinoe, Priyanka Chopra
  • Subway Restaurants on YouTube, April 19, Megan Rapinoe scores a goal for the ultimate win! A Subway Footlong!
  • Subway, June 10, Legendary Skateboarder Tony Hawk Collaborate with Subway to Launch “Drop In To Win” Contest
  • Brad Simon, June 21, Email exchange with USA TODAY
  • PolitiFact, July 25, 2019, No, Megan Rapinoe didn’t stomp on the American flag
  • Snopes, July 8, 2019, Did Megan Rapinoe ‘Stomp’ on an American Flag After the World Cup Final?
  • USA TODAY, July 7, 2019, Megan Rapinoe, Rose Lavelle lead U.S. women to 2019 World Cup championship in France

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Our fact check work is supported in part by a grant from Facebook.

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